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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Turnout at the election for the Mayor and Assembly for London on 4 May was 34.4 per cent. Turnout for each Greater London Council election was as follows:
Lord Whitty: Under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, mobiles cranes are classified as special vehicles and pay a rate of Vehicle Excise Duty of £165. Schedule 1, Paragraph 4(5) of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 states that a "mobile crane" means a vehicle which is designed and constructed as a mobile crane, and is only used on the public road in certain circumstances. Interpretation of the law is a matter for the courts, and the department's
Lord Whitty: The proposed new right of public access to open countryside forms a key part of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, which is currently being considered in another place. Although the new right will not come into effect for some time, the Government, together with key relevant statutory bodies, including the Countryside Agency and English Nature, are already considering what work might usefully be done to evaluate its environmental and economic impact.
Lord Whitty: In its response to the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, issued on 11 May 2000, the Government said that they were minded to introduce a requirement for full planning permission for all new telecommunications masts, but would need to consult widely before doing so, including on the purpose and precise scope of any new arrangements. We shall issue a consultation paper on this and related guidance as soon as practicable.
Lord Whitty: The Independent Expert Group on Mobile phones, set up at the instigation of the Government and chaired by Sir William Stewart FRS FRSE, has considered the possible health effects of the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters. The group published its report on 11 May.
The group concluded that "the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines. However, there can be indirect adverse effects on their well-being in some cases."
The group's report does not recommend a ban on the construction of mobile phone masts and the Government have no plans to introduce such a ban. What the report does do is make some specific recommendations for precautionary action for the use of mobile technology. In its response to the group's report, the Government indicated that they accept the precautionary approach advised by the group and will hold further discussions and consultation on specific elements.
Lord Whitty: The Government's policy is firmly to encourage mast and site sharing where that is appropriate. Conditions attached to the use of powers granted to individual mobile operators by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and incorporated in their operating licences, include a requirement to investigate mast sharing before seeking to put up any new mast.
Lord Whitty: The proposed EC Water Framework Directive is in the final stages of negotiation. Possible effects of the proposed directive on industry, including the Scotch whisky industry, could include tighter controls on some waste water discharges. The draft directive would also require a system of controls on the abstraction and impoundment of water.
Lord Whitty: The Scotch whisky industry has made representations to both the Scottish Executive and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on the proposed Water Framework Directive. The industry has concerns in particular about the European Parliament's second reading amendment that would delete a provision allowing abstractions that have no significant impact on water status to be exempt from control. The Government agree that this provision, which is contained in the Common Position text, is important and should be retained.
Lord Whitty: The cost of the main Entec UK Ltd report of February 1999 was £32,970 + VAT. Entec UK Ltd also undertook further cost-benefit analyses at later stages of the proposal's progress, at a total cost of £20,935 + VAT. We were broadly content with the accuracy of the reports, but invited 36 trade associations (listed in response to Question 235/99/00) to comment by way of a check. We have recently become aware from the National Farmers Union that the number of small-scale animal carcass incinerators was significantly underestimated.
Lord Whitty: The main February 1999 report of Entec UK Ltd on the proposed waste incineration directive included an assessment of the "reasonableness" of the proposal in respect of different incineration sectors.
Entec produced two further reports on the waste incineration proposal in June 1999, copies of which are in the House Library. One reported on the emissions standards employed in certain other EU member states, and the other considered the impact of the amendments proposed by the European Parliament to the Commission's proposal in response to its First Reading. The latter report also included separate assessments of the "reasonableness" of the proposed directive with the Parliament's First Reading amendments, and of the proposed directive with standards tightened to the same levels as those in the other member states investigated.
We have broadly accepted Entec's assessment at each stage, and have taken full account of it prior to reaching Common Position, including our exploration of an exclusion from the scope of the proposal for small-scale animal carcass incinerators.
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